malnutrition-scurvy

MALNUTRITION: SCURVY

Vitamin C Deficiency

SYMPTOMS:

Loss of appetite, loss of weight, diarrhea, rapid breathing, fever, swelling of the bones, bleeding (hemorrhaging), and paralysis. Other symptoms can include bleeding of the gums, loose teeth, bleeding  or protruding of the eyes, or the skin disorder hyperkeratosis. If not treated, the symptoms can be fatal.

For infants: Apprehensive, anxious, progressively irritable, have a frog leg posture for comfort when struck with pseudoparalysis and bleeding in the bones.

TREATMENT:

If there is no source of fresh fruits or vegetables available, depending on the season, and fruits were not processed for long term storage for winter then pine needle tea or the pine nuts are the best alternative. Pine needle tea is high in vitamins A and C. In fact, Eastern white pine needles have five times the amount of vitamin C found in one lemon. [1]  Throughout the centuries, people have literally survived on pine needles  to treat scurvy by drinking boiled pine needles as a tea or eat the inner bark of the pine trees. The pine nut is also a good source of vitamin C . Most edible species of pines are common throughout the North American continent, year around. [2]

PROCESSING:

  1. Locate a young pine if possible, near the top of the tree where the needles are a bright “new” looking green. Where small saplings are not to be found, locate a branch that may have new pine needle shoots at the end of the branch. See Figure (1).

Figure 1

  1. Remove needles at the base and then trim both ends. See Figure(2)

Figure 2

  1. Cut the pine needles in 1/2 inch portions as show. See figure (3)

Figure 3

  1. Simply boil or brew needles as you would coffee. See Figure (4).

Figure 4

  1. The brew will be clear like a tea. Add sugar to taste. NOTE: Vitamin C will degrade rapidly so brew fresh cut needles and drink the solution just after brewing. See figure (5).
  2. The smell of the brew is off putting yet the tastes is acceptable. I had several samplers to taste the brew and they did like the taste, that is with a lot of sugar.

Figure 5

There are no hard studies to the effect to the quantity one must drink to overcome scurvy by using this method, but I would assume at least 1 cup a day until symptoms diminished in a survival situation.

 

HISTORY:

Pine nuts were a staple food crop for the Algonquian tribes. The nuts are harvested 10 days before the green cone begins to open. The cones are dried for 20 days in the sun. The nuts are also available in brown open cones that freshly fell onto the ground, (if the wild life did not finish them off).  Similar to pine needed tea, pine nuts and the inner bark of pine trees are full of vitamin C and protein and used by aboriginal tribes for thousands of years on the North American continent.

Scurvy was a common disease suffered by malnutrition due to famine, war, explorations, and poor hygiene; basically the absence of fresh fruits and vegetables. Sea going ships back before the 1900’s, had no way to preserve fresh produce. Since vitamin C degenerates so quickly once separated from living plant fibers, many perished by simply lacking the knowledge how to treat the disease.

Between 1500 and 1800, it has been estimated that scurvy killed at least two million sailors. In 1499, Vasco da Gama lost 116 of his crew of 170; In 1520, Magellan lost 208 out of 230;…all mainly to scurvy.

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References

(1) USDA  https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_pira2.pdf Not all conifers are harmless to humans like the Norfolk Island Pine and Yew Pine, some can cause birth defects. Check with the USDA or other related sources to determine what pines are safe in your area.

(2) Boiled needles from the Eastern White Cedar contain 50 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams. “Jacques Cartier witnesses a treatment for scurvy”. Vesalius. 8 (1): 2–6.

 

 

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